Madrid is the largest city of the Iberian Peninsula and the third largest of the European Union. The region of Madrid had been inhabited by several Ibero – Celtic tribes by the times the Romans settled on the banks of the Manzanares River. The Romans called their settlement Matrice. The Visigoths overran the Romans in the 5th century and they were subsequently removed by the Moors in the 7th century, calling their settlement: al-Majriṭ. By the 9th century the Moors had built a citadel in the current location of the Royal Palace. The Arabic name evolved into the current spelling Madrid. The Moors were expelled during the re-conquest of 1085 and the citadel’s mosque re-consecrated as the church of the Virgin of Almudena. The Medieval coat of arms of Madrid was a bear shaking a Madroño Tree and this symbol survives to this day as the official logo of Madrid’s City Hall. During the middle ages, the Spanish court moved around the country and first settled in Madrid in 1329 to advice Alfoso XI of Castille. The ascension of Isabella of Castile and Fernando of Aragon consolidated the Spanish monarchy centered on Toledo and Aragon. It wasn’t until 1561 that Madrid became the de facto capital. Commerce with the colonies of the vast Spanish Empire continued to be run from Seville, but Madrid ruled Seville. During the 16th and 17th century, the economy of Madrid was dominated by the business of the court and did not boom with other commercial activities.
By the late 1800′s Queen Isabel II could not contain internal political tensions and the monarchy was overthrown, followed by the short lived First Spanish Republic which was followed by a return of the monarchy and another abdication that created the second Spanish Republic. This was the republic that entered into the Spanish Civil war in 1936. The civil war pitted the republicans, anarchists and communists against monarchists and fascists and Madrid became the first city to suffer an aerial bombardment courtesy of the Luftwaffe, who was allied with the fascist side. Madrid saw bitter battles inside its suburbs until the republicans abdicated and the victorious fascists named General Franco as ruler of Spain for life (Caudillo de Espana). Franco restored the monarchy with himself as Generalisimo but left the Spanish throne vacant. By 1969 Franco had ruled for 30 years and decided to designate the son of a Carlist claimant to the crown, Prince Juan Carlos de Borbón, as Prince of Spain and his legitimate heir. Franco died in 1975 at the age 82 and the new King Don Juan oversaw the transition of Spain from dictatorship to a parliamentary democracy.
Spain flourished after Franco and by the early 1980′s Madrid was going through a cultural renaissance called La Movida Madrileña, a countercultural movement based around nightlife, cinema and art that gave us the movies of Pedro Almodovar and the art-pop music of Mecano. The principal idea of the Movida was to reject all the values of the Franco generation and to adopt the look and feel of the British New Wave acts and the emerging gay culture. You can still see aspects of La Movida in the Chueca district of Madrid, considered one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Madrid and center of the city’s gay nightlife.. Other happening districts of Madrid are La Latina and Lavapies near the Plaza Mayor and the more up market Castellana and Torre mayor. But Madrid is a lot more than fantastic nightlife; the food is amazing, start with tapas and a Serrano ham in Museo del Jamon. Go for tapas and Cava (Spanish bubbly) in the La Latina area or around Puerta del Sol and save some energy for a daytime stroll along La Gran Via avenue and in the beautiful El Retiro Park. Get lost inside the Museo del Prado with its amazing collection of Spanish Masters, including Goya and El Greco. The Real Madrid, most successful team in Spanish football has its association club in Madrid, Spain. The club is world’s richest club and The Real Madrid roster includes some of the world’s top soccer players.
Madrid is served by Madrid Barajas international airport. Madrid’s Atocha train station is the central hub of the Spanish rail network. Eight long distance bus stations are scattered around the city and serve all of Spain and Europe. Use Madrid’s clean and efficient subway to get around the city and walk within each individual district.
Things To Do:
Madrileños do not go out to eat earlier than 9pm and are very fond of Mariscadas (Mixed Seafood Platter). The best seafood in Spain is found in Madrid and since most of the seafood comes from Galician shores, look out for Gallego style restaurants for the best Mariscada in the city. Tapas bars abound around the La Latina area and Paella is easily found around the Puerta del Sol area. Go to a Valencia style restaurant for the best Paellas. Hit the Chueca or La Latina district for wild nightlife and have the traditional deep fried Churros dipped in hot chocolate for a hangover curing breakfast at dawn. Visit Museum triangle next to el Retiro Park including the famous Museo del Prado and Reina Sofia Museum. Check out the Palacio Real and its gilded rooms. Madrid is a city of Plazas, some of them are full of bars, cafés and restaurants and offer round the clock fun; start with Plaza Mayor and its tapas bars and Spanish eateries, then hit La Puerta del Sol, under the Tio Pepe sign for more Bars and restaurants, the 16th century style Plaza de la Paja, the Plaza de Cibeles and its beautiful city hall , Plaza de España with Cervate’s statue and the Templo de Debod, a real Egyptian temple in the middle of Parque de los Rosales, the best place to watch the sunset in Madrid.
Madrid enjoys Continental Mediterranean climate with warm summers and cool winters. Madrid weather is hottest in the months of July and August and it is not advisable for tourists to visit Madrid during these seasons. The months of May, June, September and early October experiences warm temperature. Winters in Madrid are very cold and the mercury level rarely dips below the freezing point. Rainfall in Madrid is rare, with a short rainy season in late October and a little shower in spring.
Madrid offers all the tourists a full range of hotel accommodation options – from luxury five star hotels to budget hotels. The hotel packages have been designed keeping in mind the needs of the travelers. Most of the hotels also provide car rental services to important tourist destinations and to Madrid airport.